In Austin, when a person dials 911, the call taker asks, “Are you calling for police, fire, EMS, or mental health services?” Adding mental health as an option is groundbreaking and part of the city’s crisis call diversion initiative where clinicians are co-located on the 911 call center’s operations floor.
The 911 system is plagued with blind spots—those inherent to the current 911 process and others shaped by systemic and personal biases, says Dr. Rebecca Neusteter, executive director at University of Chicago’s Health Lab. She shares the troubling history of 911 and how 988 can avoid the same missteps.
On March 18, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Senate Bill 1302 into law, which designates a 988 call center and establishes a crisis call center fund. It also provides a monthly telecom tax, making Virginia the first state to pass 988 service fee legislation.
When in a psychiatric crisis, who a person of color encounters matters, says Victor Armstrong. He hopes change is on the horizon with 988 but notes it must coincide with advancing crisis care. Otherwise, telling people not to call 911 without an adequate solution leaves people in crisis and their
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